Several New Jersey school districts put hold on mask mandate because of extreme heat

There is a state mandate for students across New Jersey to wear masks while in class this school year. But some districts are getting around that order because of extreme heat. Those districts include West Milford, Lacey Township and Toms River.
Students will return to class in Toms River on Wednesday. It is a big deal for the students who haven’t been in a classroom in 18 months.
“I’m so excited to go back to school. I’m so excited to get back into a routine,” says senior Kaylee Powers.
As part of a tradition at Toms River North High School, the seniors were painting their parking spots outside of school on Tuesday afternoon.
"It'll feel like a normal life again. And I get to see all of my friends and learn stuff in class because I didn't last year. I feel like I didn't retain anything,” says Caitlin Pulsinelli.
Toms River officials said that masks will be optional at the start of the year because of the potential for extreme heat. There is an exception in Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order for the heat.
The decision in West Milford is drawing some resistance from some parents.
"Our goal is to keep the kids safe. We want our kids back in school, we want everyone to learn and teach the way they should be and really the best way is to follow the mask mandate,” says father Christopher DeWilde.
DeWilde has two children in the West Milford School District. He has started a petition that has gained support to keep the mask mandate in place even if it is hot.
"We were all taken aback by it because we looked at the weather and West Milford is showing a high of 80,” DeWilde says.
DeWilde considers himself part of the silent majority now speaking up. He says he is concerned this was a way to keep kids from wearing masks.
News 12 New Jersey reached out to the West Milford and Toms River school districts for comment on their decision, but no officials were available.